If you’re like me, you’ve dreamt of running a 100-mile race at some point in your life. As that dream starts to become a reality, it’s easy to dive into the dirty details. Which race will take my 100-mile virginity? Who will crew and pace me? How will I get myself and my crew to the race? Sound familiar? A never-ending list of logistics doesn’t need to get in the way of running a hundo.
Author Amy Clark
The Triple Crown of 200’s is awarded to the fastest runner who completes the three original non-repetitive 200-mile trail running courses in the U.S. in under three months. This year’s winner, Mike McKnight, went and elevated the definition of extreme ultrarunning without giving in to the pain he’s worked so hard to push through.
Imagine a high school track star who dared not run distances longer than 800 meters, but would eventually grow up to find herself finishing (and winning) 50 and 100-milers. That’s exactly what Nebraskan Stacey Buckley is doing, and she’s just getting started.
The mystical beauty of the Oregon Coast harnesses thousands of visitors every year. Just drive Highway 101 any time between Memorial Day until the kids to return to school, and you’ll find a steady stream of cars filled with those who are dying to dip their toes into the 50-degree temps of the Pacific Ocean. Which is why early October is perfect for the Oregon Coast 50K, as runners begin looking for peaceful shores and deserted trails without having to worry about dodging seasonal tourists.
With summer fading into a distant memory, you may already be reminiscing about sitting around the campfire under the stars. No matter what your age, those memories of being outside next to the crackling fire never seem to fade. Now imagine you’ve just finished a full day of running camp with Jeff Browning aka “Bronco Billy” and Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer.
I sit here writing as three of my favorite trail systems across Oregon are being devastated by wildfire. As a former wildland firefighter, I understand that what may seem like a catastrophe can actually benefit an ecosystem. But as a trail runner, I continue to struggle with the fact that the lush trails full of thick vegetation and old growth trees are being scorched and burned away.
There’s a voice that often pops inside my head every time I’m out on a run. It says, “Why aren’t you tough enough?” If I successfully avoid these negative whispers, it’s because I summited a butte without pausing to catch my breath, or conquered a trail at full force. Those days are few and far between, but when they do happen I feel like I can do anything. Like I am tough. Unfortunately, that voice of doubt always seems to return.
Stress is a topic I’m not fond of. For years, running has helped me deal with it during blowups at the office, riffs at home or just plain, rotten days. Hopping on the trail with a friend can ease the pressure with a little sunshine, fresh air and welcome distraction. On the flip side, there are times when a big dollop of cortisol gets tossed at me and causes my running to cease completely.
It’s not hard to draw upon those cherished memories of “firsts” – first kiss, first love or the birth of your first child. Endorphins likely flooded your system as the thrill and excitement of each moment became palatable. Now, forget all of those. In the sport of ultrarunning, there’s another set of firsts you’re likely to experience and want to forget (but won’t be able to), all for the desperate pursuit of capturing some more coveted endorphins. Here’s a list of few firsts that come with running an ultra, and how to take them in stride.
As Bend, Oregon sat under 37 inches of snow this past winter, Ryan Kaiser was at home putting in miles on the treadmill. He’s now convinced that low impact running helped him reach the highest level of fitness he’s ever seen. And it shows. With recent wins last month at the Tillamook Burn 50-mile and Gorge Waterfalls 50K, along with earning his golden ticket at Sean O’Brien 100K, he’s looking forward to heading back to Squaw for the big dance in June.
Waking up to my alarm at 5 a.m. isn’t hard these days. In the wee hours, my body knows that a grueling struggle is near triggering an internal wake-up call. Long gone are the days where I lie in the darkness, my mind spinning to justify another hour of sleep instead of getting up to run. This last weekend was no exception, and this time I had friends to hold me accountable.
Goals are funny. They’re hard to let go of, whether you succeed or fail. A Harvard study suggests, “The sense of competence resulting from successful goal achievement encourages students to set more challenging goals and eventually adopt goal directed mindsets.” Sound familiar? As a runner, my natural inclination was to follow in my father’s footsteps and run a marathon. Once that goal had been checked off, my sights were set on qualifying for, and finishing Boston (like most marathoners).
Last spring while training for my first 100K, I became dependent on Strava – an app built for just about everyone logging a daily athletic endeavor. Not only was I tracking my mileage but also time, elevation and routes, as well. This had been the perfect tool to help me record the simple data I needed during each of my training runs. I even had Strava friends who were giving me daily “kudos.” Needless to say, it pretty much became my new favorite social network. And then, I got injured.
We’ve all had good races and bad races, but volunteering in an ultra is going to be good 99% of the time – even in bad weather. Lending a hand allows you be a part of an amazing group of people who are there to support a bunch of incredible runners who’ve been training for months. And that feeling you get when you’re a part of something so awesome, well, that’s what it’s all about.
The beginning of 2017 brought with it a with a flurry of snowflakes and frigid temperatures, and the west coast was hit hard. We were then blind-sided again without a reprieve from warmer weather. So what’s a girl to do when training for a spring 100K while heading into the next ice age? Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
There’s nothing like the nostalgia of pulling out an old race t-shirt. And the smell. Soon, it earns a permanent spot, tucked away in a drawer never to be worn again. With a new year ahead, it’s a perfect time to re-evaluate gear for the upcoming year. What needs to be replaced, and what investments should be made for the upcoming race season? What worked well? What didn’t?
A training plan from the internet might be suitable to get you to the finish line of your next big race, or it might not. If you’ve recently felt like you gave it your all, yet didn’t reach that goal time you’d been hoping for, maybe it’s time you thought about hiring a coach (or asking for one for Christmas).
I’ll admit it. When it comes to ultrarunning, I’m a fangirl. Never in a million years could I have predicted I would be anxiously awaiting updates on Twitter during the Barkley Marathons, while sick in bed with the flu. Or bringing my laptop along on vacation so I could watch a livestream of the Western States 100 finish line.
Let’s face it, it’s been a rough year. With the sudden passing of iconic artists like David Bowie and Prince as well as a heated presidential election, it might not be so difficult to say goodbye to 2016. The human spirit can spiral downward quickly, and it’s up to us to use the tools we have – like running – to bring it back up.
With daylight savings time rapidly approaching, it’s not uncommon for thoughts about running to turn dark. And there’s no doubt that it takes some adjustment to running at night and in the early morning hours, especially on the trails. I got to experience my first “overnight ultra” while pacing at Western States 100 this year, and even though I’ve trained in the dark in the past, there were a few things I learned.
It was over year and a half ago when I volunteered as a broadcast crew member for Ultra Sports Live (USL.tv) during the Gorge Waterfalls 100K and witnessed someone with a GoPro camera flying up and down the trail, filming the lead runners from behind. He wasn’t dressed in running gear and he certainly wasn’t racing, but there was no mistaking him – he was a ginger.
As ultrarunners, we can experience loss after crossing a finish line, not finishing a race (or starting, for that matter) or not being chosen in a lottery. Because of the amount of time we invest in ultramarathons, the losses run deeper and therefore take more time to recover from. Fortunately, the healing process can turn each of us into a stronger, more determined athlete.